Monday, April 14, 2014

Temari: stars and stripes

  This season of temari stitching brought a new accomplishment: figuring out a design from a Japanese book, even though I don't read Japanese. With experience in reading the diagrams and stitching temari this should become easier. I hope so because there are many wonderful patterns in those books. The pattern is, I believe,  from Fun with Temari (Tanoshii Temari Asobi) by Toshiko Ozaki, ISBN 4-8377-01035. I'm not completely sure because when I came to Costa Rica this year I just brought of copy of page 50 and 51 from one of the several Japanese books I own. These little confusions crop up when one is living in two places.
   Another pattern featuring stars is from It's pattern ST07 by Shelley S. It's done on a 10 combination division and the pattern is built up by stitching a five pointed star around each of the pentagons. It's fun to do because the pattern gradually emerges as you work around the ball. I put pins with little numbers in each pentagon so I would do them in the same order. That makes it easier to not miss a star on one of the rounds.
Sometimes I can now figure out how to do a temari by just looking at a photo. That was the case with one I saw on Pinterest. One thing I don't like about Pinterest is it sometimes is impossible to know who is responsible for something lovely. In this case the link took me back to the Yahoo Temari Callenge group but I don't know which of the many members did the ball.  Barb Suess did a similar ball but her last round is different because the triangles and pentagons aren't outlined. Doing it this way dramatically changes the look of the ball.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

All over the place with temari

  Recently I stitched a few balls that are completely or almost completely covered with embroidery. This style of temari is called kousa. This kind of design demands a much great degree of accuracy in the roundness of the ball, the marking, and the stitching. And because of all the stitches needed to cover the ball they take relatively longer to do.
  Once again, thank goodness for the internet where I found these lovely patterns. The first all-over design I did—shown on the left— is pattern GT31 by Ginny T. on She describes it as being fairly forgiving for this type of design. That was definitely a good thing for my first attempt at kousa.
The ball on the right is also from It's pattern CP02 by Colleen P. The same ball can be seen from a different angle in the photo below. It's quite magical how the pattern forms as you stitch and do under and overs.
The ball on the left is a much simpler design. It's pattern SC02 by Susan C. on It's on a simple 10 division with a spindle stitched in each section. Then an obi of the same color as the base (black in this case) is woven through the spindles. Simple and very effective. On all of these balls I chose my own colors. This one used some of the wonderful greens I bought in Guatemala last year in perle 8, which is finer than the size 5 I usually use.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Rainbow season

In Monteverde, especially in January and February, there is often both mist and sun. Something I didn't realize before living here is that rainbows in the morning slowly sink as the sun rises and rainbows in the afternoon rise as the sun gets lower. Of course one needs long-lasting rainbows to notice this. Here are a few photos I took this rainbow season, which sadly, is now over.
  From our house.
Over the shopping center.
From a farm in lower San Luis.

From a coffee farm in upper San Luis, a rainbow that is about to set.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Qiviet: yes, I know what it means!

   One day at our weekly Scrabble get together in Monteverde, a player browsing through the dictionary read out, "Qiviet, the wool of a musk ox" and said "Who on earth would know THAT word?" Happily, I am among the lucky few with qiviet experience. Qiviet is a gloriously soft and quite rare fiber. The arctic muskox sheds its thick undercoat all in a very short period in spring and it is combed, not sheared from the coarser guard hairs. Native people used to collect tufts of qiviet that had caught on plants. That was probably easier than cornering a wild animal that as an adult weighs an average of 285 kg/630 pounds. In fact, some qiviet is still collected in the traditional way.
   Friends that visited the Large Animal Research Station in Fairbanks gave me an ounce of a blend of 70% qiviet and 30% merino wool. The merino adds some spring that qiviet doesn't have, so it's an excellent blend for knitting. Qiviet itself is softer than cashmere and eight times warmer than sheep's wool.
   One ounce of my yarn was only 135 yards; we are talking a seriously rare and expensive fiber. After much thought I decided to knit a lace cowl because of the wonderful softness and because that way I won't lose it. I used a  pattern called Abstract Leaves Cowl by Deb Mulder. It's available free on Ravelry.
    Knit up, the yarn is much softer than in the skein. That's saying a lot because the skein is pretty darn soft. A sort of haze or halo develops around the yarn and according to the Large Animal Research Station website, the halo will continue to develop. On their web site you can see a fascinating video of an animal being combed. The fleece comes off in a big sheet or fleece. They also have yarn you can invest in.
   I love looking at the cowl close up. The color was called Blueberry but basically it's muskox color with undertones of bluish purple. I usually block lace but I'm going to wear this scrunched up on my neck so I didn't bother.
  While knitting this cowl I made use of my handy little electronic scale. For example I weighed my ball of yarn before and after a row of knitting and determined that one row took .5 grams of yarn. Thus I could calculate how many rows of the pattern I could do. I could also calculate when to change to the garter stitch border so that I would have enough to finish. It worked out very well because I had less than a yard left when I cast off. (I even have a project in mind for that little bit: it should be enough to make one or two knit acorns.)
  This cowl is probably the warmest garment you can make with an ounce of yarn. With the unusually cold weather we are having this week it's reassuring to have this luscious garment available.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Temari without a theme

  I admire people that take an idea and explore it in depth with different variations. That has not been the case with my recent temari. They really have nothing in common with each other except that they are both nicely round.
  This temari is the pattern called Buttercups in Barbara Suess's Temari Techniques book. Contrariwise as usual, I stitched in the complementary colors to her design, using several shades of purple. I like to call it Deep Purple. To fill in the diamonds I used a rayon thread from Morocco that my sister gave me some time ago. I really like the contrast of the cotton perlé and the synthetic. The latter is slightly more difficult to stitch with. (I needed to twist my needle to keep the thread sufficiently twisted. The extra effort was worth it and I plan to use it again.)
The other recent temari I stitched is from a Japanese book (ISBN978-4-8377-0395-2). It has bands wrapped on a C8 marking and then kiku stitches to make flowers in a random pattern.
It wasn't challenging figuring out the charts in the book for this particular pattern but I was grateful to a Japanese friend for translating the part that basically says stitch the kiku as the spirit moves you. Even though you can't see them all in the book, theirs has eight flowers. My spirit moved me to stitch seven.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Bee balm lace

   I just finished a lace shawl that reminds me of the common bee balm flower that grows with abundance in our Midwestern prairies.
I used the Ostrich Plume stitch pattern on page 278 of Barbara Walker's Second Treasury of Knitting Patterns. It looks complicated, but it's one of the easiest lace patterns I've ever knit. Three rows out of four you knit stockinette and the lace row is easy to memorize. I added a border of 5 stitches in garter stitch to keep it from curling.
   When knitting is in progress, the lace looks pathetic. Kind friends avert their eyes and do not question one's sanity. It's lumpy.
Below you see it during the blocking process, pinned to a sheet on top of my bed. The sheet is so I can see all the pins and remove them all. I used an entire box, doubtless hundreds. Using lots of pins reduces the waviness of the edge. Unblocked, the shawl measured 4 feet by 14 inches. Blocking made it magically grow to 5 1/2 feet by 19 inches. (1.7 meters by .5 meters) Because it is so thin a yarn and open an pattern it dried in a couple of hours, even in the summer humidity.
I am looking forward to wearing it. It's going to the opera!
Knitty gritty: I used an Italian yarn, Cashwool by Baruffa in lilac. It's 100% extra fine merino with 1350 meters to 100 grams. Apparently this yarn is no longer available in the US. This particular yarn went back and forth to Costa Rica not once but twice!

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

With one stroke of the needle

  I love learning new techniques for stitching temari. Recently I've been working on hito hude gake in which an entire motif or series of motifs can be done with a single stitching path. (There is a good explanation of the technique in Temari Techniques by Barbara Suess.)
   To create these balls I stitched kiku herringbone motifs in a spiral around the ball from the north pole to the south pole and back. Some of each motif is done on the way south and each motif is finished on the return trip. Traditionally one color is used going from the north and another going from the south to facilitate keeping track of where you are. I'm not crazy about the way that looks because I like things to be very symmetrical. Therefore on my first attempt, on a 27 cm circumference C10 ball, I used very similar colors and then I reversed which color went south and which color went north. This fools the eye so it's hard to notice differences between the stars. In this picture, it's the smaller ball.
  The second ball, with a circumference of  37 cm, is marked with 32 centers. Barbara suggests this pattern for multicenter balls that are less than perfect because it disguises the irregularities. My ball is a good proof of that concept as the marking was sort of wonky. For this ball I used the same colors in both directions. By having little papers with numbers pinned in each of the areas I could follow the path just fine.
  Because this ball was quite time consuming to stitch, I tested a few different color combinations on partial stars by stitching a few rows and leaving the ends dangling so it was easy to take the threads out. This helped me decide to add more blue. Eventually I decided on outlining in green.